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Started by upamfva, 2022/12/20 11:27PM
Latest post: 2022/12/20 11:27PM, Views: 126, Posts: 1
#1   2022/12/20 11:27PM

Having existed for millennia, it is an astonishing fact that China throughout its vast ancient history never had one standardised language until the mid-twentieth century. During these thousands of years, the vast and great orient was linguistically split with several distinct languages and dialects growing naturally from specific regions and states. But what unified the kingdom was one writing script that was used throughout the land – Chinese characters. In these times northern and southern Chinese may not be able to fully understand each other’s speech but they could both understand the same written text. Linguistic barriers and a script renowned for its difficulty as much as its beauty meant the country was easily succumb to nationwide illiteracy. This was a serious problem especially if China had big ambitions. The solution was the formation of a standardised language for the people – Mandarin consists of two systems: the phonetic Pinyin system and a Chinese character script.To get more news about chinese alphabet for beginners, you can visit shine news official website.

Chinese pinyin is otherwise known as Hànyǔ Pīnyīn in Chinese. Hanyu meaning the language spoken by the Han people, the predominant ethnic group in China and pinyin meaning spelled sounds. Pinyin is of course the official romanisation of the Mandarin Chinese language, using western alphabet to closely match sounds to characters.

Mandarin Chinese is one of the rare languages that has no correlation between speech and the written script (Chinese characters). This is one of the reasons why illiteracy was an epidemic across the country and a phonetic system was a way to combat this long-standing issue. It wasn’t until the fall of the Qing dynasty and China’s last emperor in 1911 when the newly Republican China convened the ‘Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation’ to search for a national language and tackle the spread of illiteracy. A standardised language was eventually formed and agreed upon, and big steps were taken to simplify the language. The Zhuyin phonetic alphabet system (with unique symbols to represent each sound) was created, working alongside the dated Wade-Giles romanisation (which was used for transcription in the western world from 1850s onwards). It wasn’t till the dawn of the new People’s Republic of China, into the fifties, that modern day Hanyu Pinyin developed.

There was already a sentiment in Mao’s regime that the Chinese language would prove to be a hindrance to the development of the country if it was not sorted out. Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong’s first premier and a vital part of the central government, was a strong advocate of language reforms. In 1955 Zhou Enlai drafted in linguists including Zhou Youguang, who would become the creator of Hanyu Pinyin, to review previous phonetic systems and interpretations. Zhou Youguang strongly proposed that the Zhuyin system must be replaced with the Roman alphabet, he argued that matching Mandarin sounds with the Roman alphabet would not only make it much more easier to learn but that it was used in many other countries and using it would allow China to better integrate with the wider world.

And so the course was set on Romanising the Mandarin language. But the importance of the Zhuyin method was not understated, it was the precursor of Pinyin and a foundation. It was acknowledged by Zhou Enlai that the Zhuyin alphabet proved a phonetic system worked to improve the literacy in the 40 years before the People’s Republic and the new Hanyu Pinyin will be an upgrade and continue this even further. It took three years for Zhou Youguang to create the pinyin system, not to displace Chinese characters but to compliment them. In keeping with the sounds of the Zhuyin system, he used all 26 letters of the Roman alphabet to symbolise and account for all the words and sounds of the Mandarin Chinese language. Hanyu Pinyin just looks like the standard alphabetical letters except consisting of three parts. Letters/sounds split into two groups, initials and finals, then 4 diacritical marks which indicate the 4 different pronunciation tones of words – a flat, rising, dipping and falling pitch.

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